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Zigzag Overlook from Hidden Lake Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

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Mount Hood and the massive Zigzag Canyon from the Zigzag Overlook (Tom Kloster)
Rhododendron and beargrass blooms make this a great trail in June (Gene Blick)
Pinesap (Hypopitys monotropa), Hidden Lake Trail (bobcat)
The small, tranquil Hidden Lake (Gene Blick)
Approximate elevation profile (generated from National Geographic Topo!)
Approximate hike route (drawn using National Geographic Topo!)
  • Start point: Hidden Lake TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • Ending Point: Zigzag Overlook
  • Trail Log: Trail Log
  • Distance: 10.8 miles round-trip
  • Elevation gain: 2930 feet
  • High Point: 5,720 feet
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Seasons: Summer and early fall
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: When you get to the Timberline Trail



This is a steep but much quieter trail option to the Zigzag Overlook and alpine regions on the southwest side of Mount Hood. It is much steeper than the more popular—and decidedly busier—approach from Timberline Lodge, but for much of the way, you'll be in quiet montane forest, blooming with rhododendrons in early summer, and not see another soul. Almost the entire route is within the Mt. Hood Wilderness. It's only four miles round-trip to Hidden Lake itself, but this small feature is mosquito-infested for much of the summer, and it's really the alpine areas you want to get to.

The trail starts out as quite a workout, passing a picnic table and information kiosk to take four switchbacks up through a fairly young forest. In late spring/early summer this area comes alive with rhododendron and bear-grass blooms. For some, this is the only time of year to enjoy this hike. Come to a viewpoint, from which the noise from nearby Highway 26 is rather loud. Then hike along a level ridge crest before taking two short, sharp switchbacks up the side of a canyon. Now the path undulates along on a fairly level plane in silver fir, western hemlock, Douglas-fir, and cedar woods. At the two-mile mark, pass a spur leading to campsites, and then drop to cross the outflow creek from Hidden Lake. A 50-yard spur right leads towards Hidden Lake. Cross the outflow creek to get to the swampy shore and a campsite. Willow and skunk-cabbage crowd the fringe of this small but tranquil body of water, which is further enhanced in June when the rhododendrons are blooming at full force. Stop here for a break on a sunny summer day to admire the dragonflies dancing along the downed trees and watch for newts in the shallow, clear water.

Continuing up the main trail, you head up a slope and cross another creek. Then you'll make five switchbacks up to a ridge crest, where you rise and drop gently among the rhododendrons. The trail can be somewhat brushy in these upper reaches as you pass through woods of mature mountain hemlock, silver fir, and huckleberry carpeted with bear-grass. Next, you'll encounter small meadows blooming with lupine before you reach the Pacific Crest-Hidden Lake Trail Junction.

Turn left here, and begin winding down on the Pacific Crest Trail, which in this section doubles as the Timberline Trail. Mountain hemlock and silver fir form the subalpine canopy. Leaving the forest, the trail begins a traverse long a steep subalpine meadow and passes a gushing spring. Head into and out of a gully, and cross another meadow where asters bloom in late summer. Copses of subalpine fir and mountain hemlock dot the landscape, but you'll also encounter many more hikers. The sandy track takes you to the Zigzag Overlook, from which you'll get sweeping views of the mountain's southwest slopes. The overlook provides an awe-inspiring view of the magnificent Zigzag Canyon and a classic, picture postcard view of the Mount Hood summit, with the Zigzag Glacier and Illumination Rock in plain view.

The overlook is your turnaround point. Return the way you came. For a strenuous loop option, see the Paradise Park-Hidden Lake Loop Hike.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Self-issued wilderness permit
  • Wilderness rules apply
  • Picnic table, information kiosk at trailhead


  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Hidden Lake Trail #779 (USFS)
  • Timberline Trail #600 (USFS)
  • Green Trails Maps: Government Camp, OR #461 and Mt Hood, OR #462
  • Adventure Maps: Mt. Hood Area
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Zigzag Ranger District
  • Discover Your Northwest: Mt. Hood National Forest North: Trail Map & Hiking Guide
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount Hood
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount Hood Wilderness

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Best Hikes Near Portland, Oregon by Fred Barstad
  • Hiking Oregon's Mount Hood & Badger Creek Wilderness by Fred Barstad
  • Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain
  • Hikes & Walks on Mt. Hood by Sonia Buist & Emily Keller
  • 70 Hiking Trails: Northern Oregon Cascades by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • 62 Hiking Trails: Northern Oregon Cascades by Don & Roberta Lowe

More Links

Page Contributors

Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.